LONDON, U.K. - The Iranian ambassador said on Friday that Britain will soon repay a decades-old debt of over 400 million pounds to Iran.
The Iranian ambassador notedly clarified that the payment was not linked to the case of a British-Iranian charity worker jailed in Iran.
Hamid Baeedinejad wrote on his Telegram channel, “An outstanding debt owed by the U.K. to Tehran will be transferred to the Central Bank of Iran in the coming days. The payment ... has nothing to do with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained in April 2016 in Tehran as she tried to leave Iran after a visit with her two-year-old daughter, was sentenced to five years in prison.
An Iranian court convicted her of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe denies the charges, and Britain has called for her release.
Iran does not recognise dual citizenship for its nationals.
Meanwhile, reports noted that Britain’s debt to Iran dates from the 1970s, before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.
Reports noted that Iran paid up front for 1,750 Chieftain tanks and other vehicles, but most were never delivered because of sanctions imposed on Tehran after the revolution.
The International Chamber of Commerce in 2009 ordered Britain to repay Iran for the undelivered vehicles, but UN and EU sanctions prevented that.
As part of a deal between Iran and six major powers in 2015, most sanctions on Iran were lifted last year, in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme.
Iranian media quoted Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that a range of issues would be discussed with Britain during a visit to Tehran this month by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
According to a British government official, who spoke anonymously, it was “speculation” that the money would be paid.
In a statement, the Treasury said that the money was frozen by a British court and could not be paid because of sanctions.
On Thursday, a report in The Telegraph newspaper said that Britain was working on a plan to pay Iran the debt, as part of efforts to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
The same day however, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman denied there was any link between the debt and the charity worker’s case.
The facts quoted in the Telegraph report were denied by Iran too.